Over the years I have called London a lot of deserved names. Tempestuous, stunning, old, demanding, fantastic, incorrigible, sassy, boring (which was unfair of me), mischievous, inscrutable, over-the-top, busy, magical and usually wonderfully ridiculous.
You can go to up to Charing Cross for a greasy full English breakfast, over to Paris for lunch and party at the Ritz for dinner. What’s more, with only a short hop out of the city, you can sleep in a 14th Century Castle, drink your way around Europe and attempt to find the Loch Ness monster. The flipside is that the UK, and London in particular can be a demanding place to live.
Over the years I’ve found that the secret to London is accepting that happiness does take work (and occasionally a little luck) and there is one key thing to keep in mind when coming over: you will still probably have to wake up to an alarm and work the daily grind. But if you are courageous, the benefits can be immense. Why be poor, tired and unhappy in a rural backwater when you can be poor, tired and happy in a City where your potential can be immense?
So, I thought I’d share a few of the small ways that have made my life as an expat in London easier – ones that I recommend to everyone who moves here.
1. Make a bucket list or goal list
Refer to this list occasionally and on the rainy days that you hate this city of ours. These down days happen, and when they do you need a reminder of why you moved here, something to rekindle the magic. Feel free to borrow a couple of ideas (or all of them) from my first or second 101 in 1001 goal list, google a ‘things to do in London’ list or let this Pinterest board inspire you.
2. Get out there
Actively push your self to make new friends, improve yourself, find your tribe and make plans. You’ll be surprised at how many people will say ‘yes’ when you suggest something…
3. Order your groceries online
Seriously (and stop laughing at me for this inclusion like Mr Kiwi did until admitting I was right) unless you have a car – normally an unnecessary expense in the capital – let someone do the hard work for you. Forget hauling heavy essentials down the street, pick the grocery store that fits your lifestyle and pay an extra couple of quid to get it delivered once a month or so. It will make your life so much more hassle-free.
4. Annual travel cards
Hear me out. Travelling in London is expensive, so people often end up buying point to point (literally home to work) transport passes, often just monthly. Sure, this is good for your wallet in the short term, but long term costs you more than an annual pass. It’s a pretty big outlay, but over the long term, an annual pass is going to save you money. And whilst we’re here, get it put onto Oyster. SO much easier than trying to feed a paper ticket through barriers… (I’ve even learnt a few London commuting tricks over the years as well.)
6. Download a few London-centric apps
Every man and his wife now has apps on their phone, so get downloading. Transport apps that help you avoid commuter chaos (even down to the best door to get on the tube train), good coffee apps that will help you avoid mass-chains of grossness, apps that tell you about eccentric activities, apps that have amazing restaurant deals in any flavour region you can think of, apps that will enable you to play scrabble with your nearest & dearest (I can’t be held accountable for any arguments) and just about anything you can think of.
7. Invest some time in a local cafe and pub
Explore your neighbourhood and find one of those gems where the food is amazing (even though you only ever order the same thing because it’s so good), there’s a barista that smiles when you come in all dishevelled and grouchy, and the bartender starts pulling your drink as soon as you cross the threshold. Treasure them like gold dust.
8. Run. Away.
Get out. Organise a last-minute little day trip away, go for a wander in the countryside, find a new park on a sunny day, ramble over to that little coffee shop you’ve always meant to visit, book away and tick something off your ultimate travel bucket list or even just pull out an exotic adventure book.
9. Revel in pyjama days
They are what they say on the tin – days where you get out of bed after a sleep-in, hop in the shower (or bath depending on your poison) and straight back into a clean set of your comfiest Pyjamas. Lounge, drink hot beverages, watch movies, read trashy novels. Sometimes you just have to give in to your body and indulge in a little home-style luxury.
Hey, actually most of these apply to any city in the world not just being an expat in London. What is your favourite trick?